Early Research

© Craven & Pendle Geological Society

Amphoracrinus gilbertsoni

James Wright F.R.S.E., F.G.S.

The Carboniferous crinoidal limestone, perhaps because of its great accumulation of fragmented stems and dissociated plates, captured the imagination of early collectors.  So much so that quaint names were used to describe this rock type such as "Screw Stones" and "St. Cuthbert's Beads". It was not until the nineteenth century that a more serious approach to their study got under way.

Parkinson, J. 1808 made mention of several crinoids in his "Organic remains of a former world" closely followed by Cumberland, G. 1818 who brought crinoids collected in the Bristol area to the attention of the Geological Society.  However it was not until 1821 when J. S. Miller produced the first serious work on the crinoids in his "A Natural History of the Crinoidea".  In this publication, Miller started thinking in terms of morphology, classification, genera and species.

The Clitheroe crinoids became the focus of attention when John Phillips in 1836 illustrated 32 species of crinoid in his "Illustrations of the Geology of Yorkshire .. .. The Mountain Limestone District".  However, it is James Wright ( a native of Kirkaldy in Fife) who made the most significant contribution to what we already know about the Clitheroe crinoids.

James Wright made extensive studies into the Carboniferous Crinoidea of the Clitheroe Limestone.  Initially Wright was unsuccessful at Clitheroe but on reading Donald Parkinson's paper 1926 "The Faunal Succession in the Carboniferous Limestone and Bowland Shales at Clitheroe and Pendle Hill", and being particularly struck by the faunal lists of Coplow Quarry and Salthill Quarry, Wright decided to revisit the area.  This he continued to do for the rest of his life (with the exception of the war years) until his death in 1957.  He would spend a full week every year just collecting crinoids from the Clitheroe limestones.

Interestingly enough, James Wright was an amateur geologist, who over a period of 50 years, became internationally regarded as the foremost authority on the British Carboniferous Crinoidea.  Wright illustrated and photographed his own work eventually producing about 40 scientific papers.  For  The Palaeontographical Society Wright published a monograph titled - "The British Carboniferous Crinoidea" 1950 - 1954.

Geologists' and Palaeontologists' owe much to the efforts of James Wright.  He was honoured by many societies and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  He was also the first recipient of the Worth Prize awarded by the Geological Society in 1955.  His vast collection of crinoids now lies in the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh.